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How to Buy a House in Seattle | The Definitive Guide

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How to Buy a House in Seattle | The Definitive Guide

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Every day someone asks us “How to Buy a House in Seattle.” And really they should be asking how do I make a smart home buy? Because anyone with the right amount of money can buy a house. But how many of those homebuyers are losing money in the long term by making a stupid home purchase right now?

In this definitive guide on how to buy a house in Seattle like a smart home buyer, we are going to take you behind the scenes. Literally, show you the advice we give to our home buyers aka Diva Dwellers when they are looking for their home. And if you are more of a downloadable guide person go ahead and start here. 

15 Steps on How to Buy a House in Seattle

Guide to Buy a House in Seattle - 1

  1. Find A Broker Who is Going to Be There For You 
  2. Choose Your Priorities
  3. Do a Home Buyer Intake
  4. Get Your Financing in Order
  5. Search for a Home Smartly 
  6. Making a Strategic Offer
  7. Mutual Acceptance 
  8. Pest and Structural Inspection of the Home
  9. Review The Title Report
  10. Review the HOA/Resale Certificate (for Condos)
  11. Appraisal Process
  12. Final Loan Approval
  13. Final Walkthrough
  14. Signing Your Documents
  15. Closing Day

Let’s dive into the details below. 

Definitive Guide on How to Buy a House in Seattle Like a Smart Homebuyer

Smart Seattle home buyers know how to buy a home by working this process like a pro. And they do this by educating themselves on each one of the steps in the process.

Team Diva’s clients aka Diva Dwellers often make super-smart purchases when they buy a home. And down the road, they turn those homes into record-breaking wins when they go to sell their home. Check out the case study Just Sold in Multiple Offers This Fab Rainier Beach Home as a perfect example of this process. 

Where to start?

Let’s dig in and get you educated!!!!

Step 1: Find A Broker Who is Going to Be There For You 

Home Buying Guide - find a broker

No joke! A good home-buying broker is going to do what it takes to make the magic happen for you. Right now there are more people licensed to sell real estate than there are homes to sell (Spring 2022). And the very top producers who have the most experience are limiting who they are willing to work with. The vast difference between top professionals and those going through a midlife crisis and who want to try their hand at real estate is huge. Do you want someone who is a hustler? You need to have your stuff together. We have a very detailed guide on how to find a broker for you. Check out Making the Match: Finding a Real Estate Agent in Seattle

Pro-tip: Read online reviews and don’t be afraid to choose someone to work with that aligns with your values. Team Diva is deeply committed to helping our larger community. And our favorite clients share that passion. 

Step 2: Choose Your Priorities

Choose Your Home Buying Priorities - guide to buy a house

The majority of home buyers think priorities are bedrooms and bathrooms. But smart home buyers in Seattle know that priorities go much deeper than what you can plop into your search criteria. We have a system that we call Size, Location, and Condition. You can only choose two. These two priorities will support you throughout the process and help you as you learn how to buy a house in Seattle. 

What Are the Real Priorities When You Want to Buy a Home

  • Size: Bedroom Count, Square Footage, Room Size
  • Location: Walkable Neighborhood, Schools, Commute Time, In The Country
  • Condition: Brand new, Dated But Functional, Obsolete Systems

For more information about this process check out our blog Size, Condition, and/or Location: Home Buying and Investing Your Way in Seattle

Pro-Tip: The majority of our home buyers aka Diva Dwellers choose Location as their top priority. And the Size or Condition becomes a compromise based on their skill level. 

Step 3: Do a Home Buyer Intake With Your Broker

Do a homebuyer intake

Anyone who is going to go show you a house without doing a detailed buyer intake is someone who is not interested in getting to know you on a deeper level. Meaning they are not going to dig into your priorities. And if we don’t know your priorities we will be unable to help you make a smart home buying decision. Roy and Kim went into detail about what a home buyer intake looks like in a video a few years back.

Pro-Tip: This is more like a warning. Our buyer intakes go about an hour to an hour and a half. We not only find out about your priorities but we also educate you about the process.  

Step 4: Get Your Financing in Order

Get your financing in order to purchase a home.

The very first step in the process is to get your financing in order. And this includes you, cash buyers. Or buyers who are getting cash from family members. Cash is complicated. And getting financing with quickly changing mortgage rates is also complicated. We will not show you a home until we have a good idea of what you can afford. What if you want a total fixer but don’t have any extra cash on hand to actually fix the home once you buy it? Listen, a lot of us on the team have PTSD from the Great Recession. And we have made a huge commitment to helping people make smart buys. And this means buying something you can afford. 

Cash is Complicated: Get Your Financing in Order

Pro-Tip: Work with a really good lender. Not someone who is advertising click-bait rates online. We have seen some of our buyers get into tricky situations because they used a shady lender. Trust us that we know the best people who are going to be there for you throughout the process. 

Be strategic on how you search for a home

Searching smartly means you look at the homes that fit the priorities set out in the intake process. For instance, if you prioritized size and location and suddenly want to go look at a fixer (condition) we will have some questions. Or if you want to make an offer on a home that is super popular we will talk to you about the risks of overpaying for a home. It is super easy to get trapped into a herd mentality while looking for a home. Our clients are forward-thinking and are focused on their top priorities. And as a result, they often make smart buying decisions. Check out our Diva Dweller story “Successful Seattle Homebuyers Diva Dwellers Alison and Joe.” 

Every home purchase this family made was against the grain of what most homebuyers do. And as a result every sale they made resulted in multiple offers. They started off with a condo and ended up in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Seattle. 

Pro-Tip: We tell our clients repeatedly to “Buy the best house in the best neighborhood that you can reasonably afford.” And this philosophy has a long-term benefit as you grow your home equity. 

Step 6: Making a Strategic Offer

Make a strategic offer on a home

What do we mean when we say make a strategic offer? Are we looking at a multiple offer? An estate sale? Or did the home miss its offer review date? Does the condo you are in love with have a special assessment coming soon? All of these variables come into play when we craft a strategic offer for a client. The one constant we do look at is the Demand Rate. 

Every month we release a Coffee With Roy | Seattle Real Estate Market Update. In this series our team member goes into detail about the demand rate. If the Demand is up then home prices will rise. And if Demand is down we are moving more into a buyers market. In general, it has been a sellers market in Seattle for the last 20 years except for the few years during the Great Recession. Prep yourself! 

Pro-Tip: Our home buyer packet goes into detail about what is involved in making an offer. Download that packet now to get the full idea. We also go over the packet during the buyer intake process. 

Step 7: Mutual Acceptance | You Have a Signed Contract to Buy a House in Seattle

You are under contract to buy a house in Seattle

Everyone thinks that the search process is the most active part of the home buying process. But really it is once you get the contract signed between you and the seller that the real work starts.

Below are the timelines for your contingencies on the contract. 

Note this is for a standard contract and not for one that was one in a multiple offer.  

  • Inspect The Home – Typically Five Days From Mutual Acceptance of the Contract
  • Review The Title Report –  Typically Five Days From Receipt
  • Review the Home Owners’ Associations Documents (condo) – Typically Five Days From the Receipt
  • Lender’s Appraisal of the Value of the Home (if you are getting a loan) – About Two Weeks into the Contract
  • Final Loan Approval – Around 21 – 30 Days Into the Contract
  • Final Walkthrough – The Weekend Before Closing
  • Signing Your Final Paperwork – A Day or Two Before Closing
  • Closing Day – You Get the Keys

If you are buying a home in a multiple offer many of these contingencies will be waived. Get the whole idea of what it takes to win a multiple offer at our insiders’ guide Win A Multiple Offer in Seattle in 2022 Using the Team Diva Method. 

Pro-Tip: Work with a lender who has you fully approved through underwriting BEFORE you get into contract. We have seen many good-intentioned home buyers decide to shop their loan around. They typically end up with a lender who closes late, the appraisal comes in super low and they lose the house, and/or there are other issues that risk the buyer’s earnest money. 

Step 8: Pest and Structural Inspection of the Home

Get an inspection when you buy a home in Seattle

Team Diva has been in hundreds of homes during our combined careers. We all know that inspecting a home not only gives you an idea about what is challenging in a house. But it also teaches you how to take care of the house. Right now we are in an intense multiple offer market. And are often dependent on the sellers proving an inspection report. Regardless do your own due diligence on the home. 

Rocky has a great perspective on how to approach the inspection process. Check out his blog “Prepare Yourself for a Pre-Inspection” here after the jump. 

You know us. We are super nerdy about inspections. Read through the following blog “Inspecting Your New Diva Dwelling.”

Pro-Tip: As soon as you walk into a home go to the basement and check out the major systems. This is the hot water tank, furnace, and see if there is any water damage in the basement. These tell you so much about a house before you fall in love with the general aesthetic. 

Step 9: Review The Title Report

Review Your Title Report when you buy a home

The Title Report is one of the most important documents of the process. And it is the least reviewed by home buyers. Please do us all a favor and get read through the entire title report. In the report, there will be a lot of references to your property, who has rights to the land, and other details. We have had situations where the city of Seattle’s main sewer line went through the entire property. Or a neighbor’s fence was full on the property and it prevented the home from getting full title insurance coverage. 

And if you are buying a home in a multiple offer you have to review this document before you make an offer. 

Now we are not going to leave you out there on your own struggling to understand these documents. Chavi did a very detailed video years ago about the title report. And to better understand the terms she also wrote a blog “Reviewing Your Title Report.” Please read it!!!!!  

Pro-Tip: Call your title representative. None of us really know what is in the title report and what the legal ease means. But the title representative is an expert on these matters. And they are also the ones providing insurance for you and your lender. So they better know what is the report. 

Step 10: Review the HOA/Resale Certificate (for Condos)

Review the HOA Documents and Resale Certificate

The seller is under a legal obligation to provide the buyer with the Homeowners Association documents and Resale Certificate. These are the legal documents for how the building is being managed and supported. Now there is a reason the majority of our condo buyers become board presidents. They know more about how a healthy building is supposed to operate than most home buyers. 

Check out our blog Condo Diva Dwellings: Reviewing a Resale Certificate

Pro-Tip: Read all of the condo association and board minutes. This will give you an idea of the dirty laundry that is being hidden in the financial documents. 

Step 11: Appraisal Process

The lender appraisers the home for value

The lender’s appraisal determines the overall value of the property in regard to your home loan. The appraiser needs two sales within a mile radius to determine value. Now in a fast-moving, you will have recent sales that have not closed. And those prices will be higher than the recent closed sales. Recent deals in the contract are what we call market value. Essentially market value is determined by what someone is willing to pay for a home. An appraised value is what the bank can find to determine an overall value. Two totally different things. 

Many of our buyers have had to waive appraisal or come up with money in case of a low appraisal to win a home recently. Check out our very detailed blog Guide to Waiving Appraisal to Win a Multiple Offer in Seattle

Pro-Tip: For all of our clients we create a list of comparable properties and provide it to the appraiser. The last thing we want is for our clients to have an appraisal that comes in low and potentially for them to have issues with the seller. 

Step 12: Final Loan Approval

The lender's approval on your loan means you can move forward to closing

The lender is doing the bulk of the heavy lifting once the inspection is finalized. In general, once the appraisal comes back to the lender, the entire loan file goes into underwriting for final approval. You will be asked to provide a ton of additional forms at the last minute by the underwriters. Underwriters are the final gatekeepers in making sure the loan can be approved by the investor or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They can only make that happen if the file is in order, the buyer has the capacity to purchase the home, and the home is in a lendable state. 

Pro-Tip: Be available and get stuff to the lender as soon as possible. And you might be asked for the same document a couple of times. Just keep a file prepped so you can send it to whoever needs it when they need it. 

Step 13: Final Buyer Walkthrough

The buyer walkthrough is critical when you buy a house

The buyers’ walkthrough is mandated by the contract. The walkthrough ensures the home is in the same state as when you last saw the property. And if you are lucky enough to be able to negotiate on an inspection item the walkthrough is your opportunity to re-inspect the work. 

We have seen hot water heaters breakdown, an entire basement flooded, and on one occasion a crow died inside the house (don’t ask but read Team Diva’s Inspection Horror Stories). Oh, and one of our favorites is a seller who only does half of the repairs cause they just didn’t feel like doing more work. Basically, you can skip this step at your own expense. 

Check out our blog Diva Dweller You Are Almost to the Finish Line of the Home Buying Process for more details.  

Pro-Tip: Take your inspection report and the seller disclosure form to the walkthrough. This will give you a clear idea of exactly what you need to look for during the walkthrough. 

Step 14: Signing Your Documents

Signing your final documents to buy a house

You made it!!! Your loan was approved and the documents were released to escrow. Ok, this is when the process gets way more fluid. Escrow will give you about a 24-hour to two-day notice before signing your final documents. In Washington state, signing happens a couple of days before closing. You need to be prepared to receive and wire the final amount needed for your down payment and/or closing costs. Our advice during this phase is to be flexible. Let your job know you need to take time off to sign final documents for your home. 

Escrow is a neutral third party who is responsible for managing the transfer of the paperwork and funds for a sale of a home. You would be shocked at how many different parties escrow has to interact with while making a sale happen. 

Pro-Tip: Escrow needs you to fill out your closing disclosure documents as soon as they send them. Any delays will impact your ability to close on time. 

Step 15: Closing Day!!!!

Closing Day on Your New Home

Congratulations you are closing on your home. We will be sending you a closing email as soon as we have the recording numbers. In the email, we will have all kinds of details about how to set up your utilities, get a security system, and so much more. And obviously, we will also be getting you your keys. Congratulations on making these big wins happen.

We look forward to seeing you out and about. Invite us to your parties and we will show up!!!

Now You Know How to Buy a House in Seattle Like a Smart Homebuyer

Guide to Buying a Home in Seattle

You made it! You know exactly what it takes to buy a house in Seattle. And more importantly, you know how to be a smart homebuyer. The next step is to give Team Diva a call, text, or leave an inquiry below. And a real-life human will get back to you. Or if you still need more information. We have a MASSIVE home buyers guide you can download. 

Want to get more granular on how to buy a house in Seattle?

Check out our following guides on how to buy a home, a townhouse, a condo, or find out if buying a co-op is a good option for you. 

We are here to help. Our team understands that this process can take a year or two. And we are more than willing to give you a personalized plan to get the ball rolling. Feel free to contact us directly at thediva@teamedivarealestate.com or call/text 206-271-0264.

Chavi Hohm

Chavi Hohm

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